What would be Usain Bolt’s 100-meter sprint world record without Tyson Gay? Unintentional interpersonal synchronization between the two sprinters

Manuel Varlet, Michael J. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite the desire of athletes to separate themselves from their competitors, to be faster or better, their performance is often influenced by those they are competing with. Here we show that the unintentional or spontaneous interpersonal synchronization of athletes’ movements may partially account for such performance modifications. We examined the 100-m final of Usain Bolt in the 12th IAAF World Championship in Athletics (Berlin, 2009) in which he broke the world record, and demonstrate that Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay who ran side-by-side throughout the race spontaneously and intermittently synchronized their steps. This finding demonstrates that even the most optimized individual motor skills can be modulated by the simple presence of another individual via interpersonal coordination processes. It extends previous research by showing that the hard constraints of individual motor performance do not overwhelm the occurrence of spontaneous interpersonal synchronization and open promising new research directions for better understanding and improving athletic performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36–41
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Volume41
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • interpersonal coordination
  • sprint
  • unintentional
  • entrainment

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